Why Do We Gossip?

gossip

I wonder why we gossip? is it because it reveals others to us? And why should others be revealed to us? Why do you want to know others? Why this extraordinary concern about others? First of all, why do we gossip? It is a form of restlessness, is it not? Like worry, it is an indication of a restless mind. Why this desire to interfere with others, to know what others are doing, saying? It is a very superficial mind that gossips, isn’t it? – an inquisitive mind which is wrongly directed. The questioner seems to think that others are revealed to him by his being concerned with them – with their doings, with their thoughts, with their opinions. But do we know others if we don’t know ourselves? Can we judge others, if we do not know the way of our own thinking, the way we act, the way we behave? Why this extraordinary concern over others? Is it not an escape, really, this desire to find out what others are thinking and feeling and gossiping about? Doesn’t it offer an escape from ourselves? Is there not in it also the desire to interfere with others’ lives? Isn’t our own life sufficiently difficult, sufficiently complex, sufficiently painful, without dealing with others’, interfering with others’? Is there time to think about others in that gossipy, cruel, ugly manner? Why do we do this? You know, everybody does it. Practically everybody gossips about somebody else. Why?

I think, first of all, we gossip about others because we are not sufficiently interested in the process of our own thinking and of our own action. We want to see what others are doing and perhaps, to put it kindly, to imitate others. Generally, when we gossip it is to condemn others, but, stretching it charitably, it is perhaps to imitate others. Why do we want to imitate others? Doesn’t it all indicate an extraordinary shallowness on our own part? It is an extraordinarily dull mind that wants excitement, and goes outside itself to get it. In other words gossip is a form of sensation, isn’t it?, in which we indulge. It may be a different kind of sensation, but there is always this desire to find excitement, distraction. If one really goes into this question deeply, one comes back to oneself, which shows that one is really extraordinarily shallow and seeking excitement from outside by talking about others. Catch yourself the next time you are gossiping about somebody; if you are aware of it, it will indicate an awful lot to you about yourself. Don’t cover it up by saying that you are merely inquisitive about others. It indicates restlessness, a sense of excitement, a shallowness, a lack of real, profound interest in people which has nothing to do with gossip.

The next problem is, how to stop gossip. That is the next question, isn’t it? When you are aware that you are gossiping, how do you stop gossiping? If it has become a habit, an ugly thing that continues day after day, how do you stop it? Does that question arise? When you know you are gossiping, when you are aware that you are gossiping, aware of all its implications, do you then say to yourself, “How am I to stop it?” Does it not stop of its own accord, the moment you are aware that you are gossiping? The ‘how’ does not arise at all. The `how’ arises only when you are unaware; and gossip indicates a lack of awareness. Experiment with this for yourself the next time you are gossiping, and see how quickly, how immediately you stop gossiping when you are aware of what you are talking about, aware that your tongue is running away with you. It does not demand the action of will to stop it. All that is necessary is to be aware, to be conscious of what you are saying and to see the implications of it. You don’t have to condemn or justify gossip. Be aware of it and you will see how quickly you stop gossiping; because it reveals to oneself one’s own ways of action, one’s behaviour, thought pattern; in that revelation, one discovers oneself, which is far more important than gossiping about others, about what they are doing, what they are thinking, how they behave.

Most of us who read daily newspapers are filled with gossip, global gossip. It is all an escape from ourselves, from our own pettiness, from our own ugliness. We think that through a superficial interest in world events we are becoming more and more wise, more capable of dealing with our own lives. All these, surely, are ways of escaping from ourselves, are they not? In ourselves we are so empty, shallow; we are so frightened of ourselves. We are so poor in ourselves that gossip acts as a form of rich entertainment, an escape from ourselves. We try to fill that emptiness in us with knowledge, with rituals, with gossip, with group meetings – with the innumerable ways of escape, so the escapes become all-important, and not the understanding of what is. The understanding of what is demands attention; to know that one is empty, that one is in pain, needs immense attention and not escapes, but most of us like these escapes, because they are much more pleasurable, more pleasant. Also, when we know ourselves as we are, it is very difficult to deal with ourselves; that is one of the problems with which we are faced. We don’t know what to do. When I know that I am empty, that I am suffering, that I am in pain, I don’t know what to do, how to deal with it. So one resorts to all kinds of escapes.

The question is, what to do? Obviously, of course, one cannot escape; for that is most absurd and childish. But when you are faced with yourself as you are, what are you to do? First, is it possible not to deny or justify it but just to remain with it, as you are? – which is extremely arduous, because the mind seeks explanation, condemnation, identification. If it does not do any of those things but remains with it, then it is like accepting something. If I accept that I am brown, that is the end of it; but if I am desirous of changing to a lighter color, then the problem arises. To accept what is is most difficult; one can do that only when there is no escape and condemnation or justification is a form of escape. Therefore when one understands the whole process of why one gossips and when one realizes the absurdity of it, the cruelty and all the things involved in it, then one is left with what one is; and we approach it always either to destroy it, or to change it into something else. If we don’t do either of those things but approach it with the intention of understanding it, being with it completely, then we will find that it is no longer the thing that we dreaded. Then there is a possibility of transforming that which is.

Source: “On Gossip,” from The First and Last Freedom, by Jiddhu Krishnamurti